CLEVELAND, Ohio – Opening day is drawing near and the Indians working on their outfield.
They have agreed to a minor-league deal with Carlos Gonzalez, pending a physical. The deal, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, includes an early April opt out clause. The deal was confirmed by the Indians.
Gonzalez, 33, hit .276 (128-for-463) with the Rockies last year. He hit 16 homers with 64 RBI and a .796 OPS. Gonzalez has spent the last 10 years with the Rockies.
Over the winter the Indians let outfielders Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis, Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer go through free agency. They still have outfielders Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Jordan Luplow, Leonys Martin, Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin, Trayce Thompson and Brandon Barnes in camp.
The Indians open the season on March 28 against the Twins. Gonzalez is not expected to be ready by then, but could join the Indians in April. If not, he could exercise his opt out clause.
Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter, is a former three-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He’s a .290 lifetime hitter with 231 homers and 755 RBI. Over the last three years Gonzalez has played right field for the Rockies. He went to the All-Star Game in 2016 and considered to be one of the best defensive outfielders in the NL.
Right field has been up for grabs this spring with the Tribe. Naquin has made 13 starts in right. Thompson has made five. Naquin has one minor league option left and Thompson is a spring-training invitee.
Left field seems secure with Bauers playing there. Martin is scheduled to start in center. Allen has had a strong spring and can play all three outfield spots. If Gonzalez isn’t ready by opening day, Naquin could open in right.
Last season Gonzalez spent most of his time hitting in the fourth spot. It’s unclear where he’ll hit with the Indians if he makes the club. His best season came in 2010 when he hit .336 with 197 hits, 34 homers and 117 RBI.
Gonzalez is the second high-profile free agent the Indians have brought to camp on a minor league deal. They signed Hanley Ramirez to a minor league deal on Feb. 28. If Ramirez makes the club, he’ll DH.